There are several reasons why music videos' visual stimulation
is a unique and powerful form of media. One is its power to evoke
specific visual images every time music is played. Another is that
the visuals are the primary source of pleasure and require a complex
visual chain that relies on memory. This makes it essential to watch
videos again and again (Kinder 1986). Viewers have to work at connecting
images to formulate a narrative or context for song lyrics. The
cognitive effort needed to decode the media text establishes the
process as stimulating and memorable.
Music videos pioneered a new direction in video expression.
Because they are commercial themselves, they erased the distinction
between television advertising and programming. The use of the quick
visual montage causes some to feel that music videos are a mainstream
and accessible form of postmodern art. Music videos' potent use
of "images as reality" has transformed popular media.
Music videos' conventions have influenced television commercials,
television programming and popular film. They serve as populist
entertainment, particularly for young people.
Music videos function is to market pop songs to a music buying
audience. The largest demographic targeted is young people 12-34.
In the process of marketing entertainers and their CDs, videos and
MTV have co-opted autonomy and youth rebellion as their mantra.
They are successful because buyable pop culture is central to young
people's lives. Pop culture commodities express personal
taste, personal identity and identification in the youth
subculture. MTV and music videos use a subtle marketing approach,
they present their cultural product as an experience to be shared,
an opportunity to participate in a wonderous leisure world. Participating
in this world is portrayed as a primary experience, a part of living,
so the products or videos become "natural."
Music videos animate and set to music the tension of US youth culture.
Many of them recognize and mirror young people's feeling of instability
and often they fuel teenagers' search to buy and belong (Aufderheide,
1986). MTV, particularly, plays to young people's search for identity
and struggling to find community in a society whose major product
is information. Bob Pittman, the inventor of MTV, said: "Young
Americans are TV babies. If you got their emotion going, forget
their logic, you've got 'em" (Lewis, 1990). MTV has
enormous penetration in the youth market and can deliver an enormous
audience to advertisers.
Personal identity is the primary commodity produced and co-opted
in music video. The images are not real life or
mythical, instead they are pop culture cliches, commodified
forms of cultural stereotyping. Sex roles are an identity
created from the outside in and usually from the perspective
of male fantasy. Music videos encourage constant recreation
of identity in a world without social responsibility, an untrue
world of distraction and diversion. People producing and "starring"
in music videos invent the world they represent. The popular culture
iconic representations for males frequently include suitors, thugs,
gang members, etc. Female images are often prostitutes, nightclub
performers, goddesses, temptresses, servants or schoolgirls. Women
are often outsiders or agents of trouble. All of this maintains
the macho traditions of rock and roll (Seidman, 1992) and influence
young people's social construction of reality (Berger & Luckmann,